Category Archives: Book Reviews

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Genre: Science Fiction
Author: Ernest Cline
Rating: 4.6

Ready Player OneIn the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the?? OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win???and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Reviewed by:??Katheryn J. Avila
Rating: 4 stars

Review:

Funny story, I actually picked this one up on a recommendation from my boss. We were doing a catch-up meeting and he mentioned this book, told me a little bit about it, and before the meeting was over my copy was already ordered on Amazon. And then it took me months to actually get through it, despite how excited I was.

It starts off a bit slow, which is why I had trouble sticking through it, but once it picks up I couldn’t put it down! The author does a great job of painting a world that really doesn’t seem very far off. As someone who’s played in virtual reality before, it’s easy for me to imagine being in Wade’s situation, addicted to an imaginary place the way he’s addicted to the OASIS. We spend most of the book following Wade, the main character, in his quest to inherit the OASIS. The cast isn’t huge (Wade spends most of his time alone) and yet the time we do spend with other characters easily brings them to life. Each person felt like they had an entire story behind them, and I’d definitely be willing to read them!

All in all, it was a pretty great book. Other than the slow start, my only criticism is that the end was too abrupt. It left a lot of unanswered questions, yet not enough for me to necessarily need a sequel. A couple of times throughout the book the author chooses to tell, rather than show, and that served the purpose of those parts of the book just fine. I think he could have wrapped the book up similarly, tying the loose ends I still have questions about. The ending is the only reason it doesn’t have 5 stars.

Writing Book Reviews

We’ve all been there before. We finished reading that book, the one that blew you away and now you want to share the news so that others know to pick up that same book and read it. So you decide that maybe it is time to try your hand at writing a review. After all, you’ve read a few on Amazon while considering purchasing an ebook and found them to be helpful. You sit down to write the review but you don’t know where to begin, other than “This was a great book!” and, after a few attempts at writing something, you close your browser window and decide maybe you’ll write it later. Only later never comes.

If this sounds like something that has happened to you before, you aren’t alone. The best part about reading books is, of course, reading the books! Telling your circle of reader friends used to be enough to generate momentum for a book to do well, but in today’s world, it takes a lot more for a book to get noticed. There are so many books out there to read, and so many ways to spread the word, that a??great book??can be lost among the wilderness and receive far less attention than it deserves.

Why should I write ??book reviews?

One of the best things that a reader can do to spread the word about a book is to leave a review, as many places (such as Amazon) are rumored to display books more often in those “Recommended for You” advertisements if a book has reached a certain number of reviews. So if there is a book that you really like and want others to read, the review is one of the best ways to help it to be seen and read by others. This is especially true with books published by smaller presses or self-published by the authors themselves.

What should I include in my book review?

So how does a person go about writing a review? There are many approaches, and all of them have merit. Here is how I personally sit down to approach writing a book review:

Rather than summarize the plot of the book (after all, isn’t that what the book’s blurb is supposed to do), I try to begin globally with my overall reactions to the work as a whole. From there I dive into two or three things in the book that really stood out, whether it is the characters, the setting, the story itself, or something completely different. This should be something that is achievable in nearly all books, as even the average book does some things well. After that I try and mention one thing in the book that I felt could have been improved to make it a stronger story for me, since no book is absolutely perfect in every regard to every reader. While a large publisher or an older book may not see or benefit from this, the smaller presses and indie authors will see it and hopefully be able to use that to help guide their future writing. Finally, I like to close by recapping my initial reaction as a whole and then making a small set of recommendations to the types of readers who might particularly enjoy reading that book.

Where should I post my book reviews?

The best answer to this question is that you should post the review in as many places as possible. While the majority of potential readers will turn to Amazon or Goodreads to find out what people are saying about a book, there are other places that could still generate the traffic, such as Barnes & Noble or Smashwords. Posting the review on a blog or website can also help generate additional exposure for the book, and, of course, filming a video review to put on YouTube is also an added bonus. Typically, most authors would like to see at least reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, with Barnes & Noble being a common third location.

How can I find new books to review?

Our Write Side has a team of reviewers who are able to select books to review each month. The offerings change each month, and there are several different sections of review teams based upon genres so, depending on your reading preference, you could have quite a few books to choose from each month. It is completely free, and you can find a link to sign up to be a reviewer by clicking here!

Book Reviews featured image 2

Remember that reviews are critical for the success of a book and for an author. If you find a book you love, the best way to help others find and read a book is to leave an honest review. It is your way to give them a virtual??high five or a hug, a way to show your appreciation for the stories they told or the information they worked hard to compile. Writing can feel like a thankless job at times, but I have seen the sheer joy expressed from authors when a new review goes up. It matters to them, which is why leaving a book review is one of the best things you can do.

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Want to practice writing reviews? Grab a copy of my fantasy novella, A Merchant in Oria (or any of my other books), and leave one for me.

The Man of Cloud 9 by Adam Dreece

Title: The Man of Cloud 9
Genre: Science Fiction
Author: Adam Dreece
Rating: 4.3

The Man of Cloud 9Seventy years from now, climate change has damaged the world, and civilization has lost its appetite for radical dreamers and innovation. Niko Rafaelo believes that the key to our future lies in revisiting a banned technology, and binding it with the human microbial cloud (the bacteria that surrounds each person). Cut from the same cloth as his Silicon Valley heroes of history, he is compelled to see his dream realized to its fullest potential, but will it cost him everything?

The Man of Cloud 9 is a character-centric sci-fi story that gives a genuine “Silicon Valley behind the scenes” feel, and shows how a single selfless deed can be the harbinger of your own doom in this world.

Reviewed by:??Heidi Angell
Rating: 4 stars

Review:

Wow, I absolutely loved this book!??Rene Auberjonois was right, this is a unique and insightful story with a fantastic take on the future world grounded in modern technology and very realistic! I absolutely loved following Niko in his visionary ventures dealing with a world that had become afraid of technology and had banned certain lines of development because of their fear.

Adam Dreece creates a very realistic future dystopia where technology has been halted??in many aspects because we grew faster than we were ready, got burned, and were afraid to take further risk. Being the wife and mother of tech heads, I really appreciated Niko’s frustration with “regular people” and his desire to keep his worlds separate. The crazy risks he took because he believed so inexplicably in what he was doing, his single-minded focus, and even in the way that his behaviors alienated him from those around him and put everything at risk, all rang true.

One of my frustrations with a lot of stories is that the plot is often based on lack of communication (and yeah, it’s realistic, but at the same time the characters don’t demonstrate why they are inefficient) and I find myself yelling at these characters because the problem is so obvious that even they must know that it is their own darn fault and should stop doing that stupid thing. (For example: If Gibbs would just take 2 seconds to explain, instead of expecting everyone to just trust him, we would lose half of NCIS!)

But in Man of Cloud 9 we understand Niko so well and??even though he knows he is creating a lot of his own problems, we actually “get” why he does it. (And no, it isn’t just because he is a techno geek and lacks social skills. It is so much more deliciously complex!)

This story was so delightful in its depth and focus that I could not wait to give it to my eldest son (the tech head) for Christmas. Dreece expertly weaves a story with multiple layers. The technical struggle is enough to excite any Sci-fi enthusiast, the moral dilemma is a teasing thriller throughout to draw us forward, and the complex relationship struggles are enough for any fan of drama to stay hooked.

On a side note, I got a glorious tickle when he mentioned “The Yellow Hoods” a couple of times??in passing, as this is actually another series that Adam Dreece wrote that falls in the Fantasy realm. I also got a laugh when he mentioned a fellow author friend, Angela B. Chrysler. It was fun seeing how he pulled from his real world and added it into The Man of Cloud 9!

I must mention that the editing did suffer a bit towards the end, but not to the point that the story lost understanding, and not really enough to pull me out of the story.

Esper Files by Egan Brass

Title: Esper Files
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Author: Egan Brass
Rating: 4.1

Esper FilesThey came after The Great Storm, the Espers. Feared and hunted by society, there are those who use their powers for good, and those who use them for evil.

When an experiment goes wrong in Victorian London, Espers, people with supernatural abilities are created. In order to counter this new potential threat, the Institute is set up to teach Espers how to use their abilities for good and how to hunt down those who want to use their powers for evil.

Gifted with a formidable but self-destructive ability, Nathan is one of the Institute???s top agents. When the evil Baron executes his plan to control the minds of London???s political leaders, peace is dependent on Nathan and his team.

Will he learn to control his powers in time to save the world? Or will he succumb to their self-destructive nature?

Reviewed by:??David Wiley

Review:

Confession time: when I saw the title for the book, I instantly thought of my favorite video game, Final Fantasy VI. And that was the sole reason I agreed to read and review this book, with the hope that maybe there had been some inspiration from my favorite game within the pages. After all, the description is close enough to the espers from that game, how could it be a bad thing?

Well, this book is nothing like Final Fantasy VI, and clearly had no inspiration from that game. But it is a book that has close similarities to The Flash and the X-Men, two comic books whose television/movies I enjoy watching. Tick back the clock to Victorian London, and the stage is set for a Steampunk-ish super hero book.

Only there was a disappointing lack of Steampunk elements. And it didn???t really feel like Victorian London???there was nothing to really evoke that setting other than being told that is where it takes place.

If it sounds like I didn???t enjoy the book, you???re wrong. While it didn???t live up to my secret hopes, and didn???t really evoke the setting, this book was still a good, fun read. I love superheroes, and am almost always glad to read a book featuring people with super powers. Especially when they struggle to come to grips with those powers, or at the very least are very human still in their interactions with the world. I read and enjoyed several superhero books last year, Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld and Calamity by Brandon Sanderson. And while Esper Files is not as good as either of those books, it is still a good book and an enjoyable read.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to the next book in the series. If you want a light, fun romp that follows a team of people with superpowers, this is the book for you.

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